KEVIN TATE: When follow-the-leader means more than just a game

By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer

I have a little girl who follows me around sometimes and does her best at the kinds of things I like to do, because they’re fun to some extent, but mainly because she wants to spend time with me.
We play golf sometimes, and she stands in as my designated putter and driving critic. There’s a nine-hole course not far from where we live and, on warm Sunday afternoons, we’ll go play there, because the dress code is casual and so is my game. I handle the work from tee to green, then she takes over with a pink-gripped flat stick sized for her age, which is 7. I’ve made sure not to demonstrate my four-letter vocabulary or my wedge-throwing technique yet, and I’ve limited our pairings to others who’ll do the same. We haven’t slowed the pace of play or stepped in anyone’s line because I’m teaching her the etiquette is more important than the outcome.
After the first round that found her in my company, a round that was my first of that particular season and one I felt very good about since it only included one or two truly bad shots, she reported to her mother that, “on one hole, Daddy hit it WAY up into somebody’s yard and he didn’t go get it.” Well, they had a big dog, and I had plenty more Titleists.
The shot I would have forgotten long ago but for the comment. The big, sweeping hook was neither the first nor the last for me, but the memory of her remark is now a favorite.
Sometimes we go fishing, in an easygoing, laid-back kind of way. Not all-day, hardcore fishing to fill a freezer, just kid fishing on a pier or pond bank, baiting with worms or crickets, watching a cork dance and sink from view for a while, then picking flowers or playing in the dirt. She enjoys being there with me, and I enjoy remembering why we’re there at all. Just sharing the time together is what it’s about. Really, it’s what everything’s about, but usually we distract ourselves so we don’t see it.
Sometimes we’ll ride around on an ATV or just go walk in the woods, look at the flowers and the trees, talk about whatever’s on her mind, which is usually a lot. Why did God make the grass green? How long do we stay in Heaven? Where do cats go when they die? I do my best to answer, hoping all the time it’s the effort to communicate that counts, because the information barely qualifies. Those are the days that make me wistful on others, days when I’m at work or otherwise occupied, but I know she uses that space and time to become herself, hopefully getting some perspective on the Daddy who nags her to hang up her towel and turn off the light when she leaves her room.
The perspective I gain reminds me not to nag so much, not to be so critical, but to be grateful and appreciative while I can, because she’s growing up, a little more every day. Someday she’ll have her own interests that take her elsewhere. These days, though, I have a little girl who follows me around sometimes, mainly because she wants to spend time with me.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media Productions for Mossy Oak Brand Camo in West Point.